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Keeping control of your “ABCs" -- A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol -- can go a long way to help prevent heart disease, stroke, and other heart problems when you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. And your heart health is very important: You are two to four times more likely to have strokes and heart disease if you have diabetes. Follow these guidelines for heart-healthy living to meet your ABC goals. Your doctor may tailor your goals based on your age, blood sugar (also called glucose) levels, and heart or other diabetes-linked problems you may have.

ABCs: A1c Testing for Diabetes

Why Does A1c Matter?

Keeping control of your blood sugar over time helps lower your risk of problems such as kidney, nerve, and eye disease. It may also make you less likely to have a heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease. Each percentage point you drop in your A1c test result (from 8% to 7%, for example) can drop your risk of kidney, eye, and nerve disease by a whopping 40%.

If you have diabetes, you should check your blood sugar often to make sure your levels are in check. A hemoglobin A1c test is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. It's a way to check how well you control your blood sugar over time. A1c measures how much glucose has been "sticking" to your red blood cells. If your treatment changes or your blood sugar control is not on target, then you should repeat the test every 3 months.

What's Your A1c Goal?

Aim for an A1c of around 7%.

How Can You Improve Your Score?

If you think of daily blood sugar testing like a pop quiz, the A1c is a midterm. Steady daily blood sugar control improves your A1c score, which sums up your past efforts. Take your diabetes drugs and make sure you eat healthy, get exercise, and follow the other heart-healthy guidelines below. This will help you reach your A1c goal.

ABCs: Blood Pressure and Diabetes

About 70% of people with diabetes either have high blood pressure -- a score of at least 140/90 (read as "140 over 90") -- or use prescription drugs to keep their blood pressure down. High blood pressure raises your chance of having other health problems that diabetes can cause, like eye disease and kidney damage. It also makes you more likely to have heart disease and stroke.

Why Does Blood Pressure Matter?

Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level lowers your chances of having heart disease by 33% to 50% -- a big benefit. It can also help prevent or delay kidney disease, another common problem with diabetes.

What's Your Blood Pressure Goal?